The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire Quotes

Edward Gibbon

"All Taxes Must, At Last, Fall Upon Agriculture"

Context: In Chapter 8 of his narrative of Roman history, Edward Gibbon leaves the chronicle of the Roman Empire itself to inform his reader of the nature of Rome's enemies from without, the tribes which were to invade the outer provinces of the Empire at first and, later, overrun the Empire as a whole and sack the city of Rome itself. These invaders Gibbon calls "the nations who avenged the causes of Hannibal and Mithridates." He first tells of the Persians, including in his narrative a succinct, but clear, account of their religion, Zoroastrianism. He then relates how Artaxerxes wrested the control of the Near East from the Parthians and established his own vigorous administration throughout Persia by subduing each of the underkings who had ruled under his predecessor. The quotation about taxes and agriculture is credited to Artaxerxes by Gibbon, who notes that it can be found in D'Herbelot's Bibliothèque Orientale, under the entry "Ardshir," another form of Artaxerxes' name. The quotation appears in a paragraph in which Gibbon praises the Persian ruler for his intelligent and effective rule:

The reign of Artaxerxes . . . forms a memorable era in the history of the East, and even in that of Rome. His character seems to have been marked by those bold and commanding features that generally distinguished the princes who conquer, from those who inherit, an empire. Till the last period of the Persian monarchy his code of laws was respected as the ground-work of their civil and religious policy. Several of his sayings are preserved. One of them in particular discovers a deep insight into the constitution of government. "The authority of the prince," said Artaxerxes, "must be defended by a military force; that force can only be maintained by taxes; all taxes must, at last, fall upon agriculture; and agriculture can never flourish except under the protection of justice and moderation. . . .